At the April 2001 ACS National Meeting in San Diego, F. Albert Cotton received the ACS Award in Organometallic Chemistry. The award was just the latest in a series of awards that have acknowledged his previous and ongoing contributions to inorganic and organometallic chemistry.
|Illustration by Dr. Chun Lin|
He has been awarded the Priestly Medal, the National Medal of Science, the Paracelsus Prize, the Wolf Prize, the Lavoisier Medal, and the Welch award, to name a few. He is the first inorganic chemist to win both the ACS Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry and the ACS Award in Inorganic Chemistry.
An award article--based on the award lecture he gave in San Diego--is now available in Inorganic Chemistry as a free Hot Article. It contains his personal recollections of some of the exciting developments in transition metal organometallic chemistry over the last half-century to which he contributed. In particular, he covers fluxional organic molecules, fluxional metal carbonyls, the discovery of agostic hydrogens, arene complexes of lanthanides and actinides, and �2, h2, h2-C2H4 complexes.
Figure. �2, h2, h2-C2H4 complex
Cotton's career parallels the rise in transition metal organometallic chemistry. In 1951, Cotton's first year of graduate school, Kealy and Paulson reported making the remarkably stable organo-transition metal complex ferrocene. The result sparked a revolution and a flurry of activity in a field that he would later have a huge impact on.
In the article, he paints a picture of the fun and the pioneering spirit that existed in the field early on and that continues today. Names like Ring Whizzers, three-ring circus, molecular bicycle chain, molecular windshield wipers, twirling M(CO)3 groups, and merry-go-rounds are often used to describe fluxional behavior. These somewhat whimsical names say a lot about how much fun it was to work with them (and perhaps about the chemists who named them).
Currently a distinguished professor of chemistry at Texas A&M University, Cotton has 330 publications in the field of organometallics alone. He has mentored 104 doctoral students, 42 of whom have gone on to hold academic positions.
He has "found nonclassical organometallic chemistry to be great fun for just about the entire half-century it has existed." Cotton also says, "It seems to me that the fun is far from over. Apart from the fun, of course, this field has had a huge, multibillion-dollar impact on the chemical industry, and there is no doubt that that is going to continue for a long time to come."